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New £2.5 million project launched to restore fragile marine habitats

by Emma Cotton 29 Jan 20:44 UTC
Eco-mooring © RYA

The future of England's most important underwater habitats have today (29 January) received an important boost after a marine restoration project received £2.5 million funding.

The LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES project, led by Natural England, will protect seagrass meadows - a critically endangered EU red listed habitat which are easily damaged and slow to recover. They are threatened by anchoring, mooring and launching of recreational boats, as well as trampling from walkers and bait collectors. The project will provide environmentally friendly moorings, voluntary codes, targeted training and habitat restoration, in five areas across southern England.

Seagrass meadows stabilise the seabed, clean surrounding seawater and absorb carbon, helping to prevent climate change. It has been estimated that seagrass around our shores can absorb and store at least as much carbon per hectare as trees in UK woodland. These plants are havens for many marine animals including rare seahorses, stalked jellyfish, and rare seaweeds. These habitats are also perfect for fish nurseries, including commercially valuable flatfish such as plaice and flounder.

The five Marine Protected Areas, set to benefit from the funded project are: the Isles of Scilly, Fal & Helford, Plymouth Sound & Estuaries, Solent Maritime and Essex Estuaries Special Areas of Conservation.

Phil Horton, Royal Yachting Association's Environmental and Sustainability Manager, said: "We are pleased to have the chance to show recreational boating and sensitive habitats coexisting. ReMEDIES is a great opportunity to exhibit Advanced Mooring Systems to recreational users."

"This project is a win-win-win for the planet, for people who use the sea and for the marine environment by protecting the delicate sea bed and restoring sea grass meadow, a vital carbon sink, as well as providing new places for boats to moor."

The scheme has been awarded £1.5 million from the EU's LIFE fund and is the result of more than 12 months of working together with several partner organisations including the Ocean Conservation Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Royal Yachting Association and Plymouth City Council. The other £1 million has been match funded from Natural England and the other partner organisations.

The project, running from July 2019 to October 2023, will be publicly launched at a project workshop at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth tomorrow (30 January) looking at Advanced Mooring Systems that are more gentle on delicate underwater habitats, building on previous wildlife friendly mooring workshops run by the Royal Yachting Association.

The techniques and evidence drawn from Recreation ReMEDIES will be evaluated to measure the conservation benefit and assess how it could be repeated across Europe.

The programme will directly train nearly 2,000 recreational users, helping to:

  • collect seed and replant seagrass (a first for England at this scale);
  • inspire better care of the seagrass beds by recreational boat users;
  • roll-out solutions including advanced mooring systems that are more gentle on delicate underwater habitats.

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